Having struggled to make ends meet, Brittany Starks knew that a small act of kindness could change someone else's life.
Brittany Starks is a single mother who has been homeless and struggled to make ends meet. She knows what it means to have a fresh start. Kids are now returning to in-person classes after more than a year and especially a difficult year because of the pandemic and Starks wanted to help as many kids as she could. Starks offered to braid children's hair for free to help take away some of the stress for parents at the beginning of the school year. Braiding a child's hair can cost hundreds of dollars and is painstaking work that can take up more than six hours at a braiding salon. She had made the offer on the Facebook page "Hip Antioch" in early August. Starks was thinking she could help out 5-6 kids but was soon flooded with requests. "I thought it was going to be five to seven kids, but it ended up being 35 kids," said Starks, referring to the initial response. The number of requests has since shot up and she's happy to oblige. "It's been very hard. I haven't gotten any sleep. I've been extremely tired, but it's very worth it," said Starks, reported NPR. "I feel like I'm doing it for a good cause."
"Anyone know single parents who can’t afford to get their child’s hair done for school? I will braid it for free!" she wrote on the page. As the requests shot up, Starks sought the help of volunteers and now, Starks and her team have been braiding children's hair in homes, churches and braiding shops around Nashville. It also helps ease the burden on parents who otherwise will have style their chidlren's hair every morning. The pandemic has been rough on families and as far as Starks was concerned, this was one less thing to worry. It's also gives the kids a huge lift as they navigate returning to schools and in-person learning. "It boosts confidence," said Starks. "Some kids, they came in, they weren't smiling, they weren't talking, and then, you know, as they get their hair braided, they start opening up a little more and then when they're done, they're just smiling and so happy. It's a great thing to see."
Starks says while it may seem like a small thing, it can give children a new confidence. "When your hair is cute, I just feel like you feel so much better about everything," she said. "[If] your hair is done, you feel confident, you go into school with a fresh start — even though Coronavirus is bringing everybody down." Her need to help others come from a deeply personal space. When she was going through a difficult period, her kids' clothes were still in storage and she was afraid that she wouldn't have anything for them to wear for the start of the school year. That's when a friend of a family gifted her children new backpacks with two outfits each inside, school supplies and a new pair of shoes. That random act of kindness spurred her on to help others. "It wasn't anything fancy, it was actually from Walmart, but it didn't matter to me because it was so nice that he just did it [at all]," recalled Starks.
"It really meant a lot because I'm a single mother, I've been homeless before, I've been through some rough situations ... so just anything, just to take a little pressure off, it makes you feel good," she continued. She has now started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the costs of braiding hair and other materials and has already raised more than $15,000. "I really hope that people start being more kind and helping instead of judging and always wanting to talk about someone because of their situation instead of helping them," she said.